Doga = NOga

this is not the face of a canine yogi

this is not the face of a canine yogi

 

This afternoon, I took Karmann to a local fall-themed dog event. It included a session of “doga,” which is, of course, dog yoga. It’s the reason we went. In addition to whatever the hell a dog yoga class could be, it promised dog massage, which I thought would be helpful for Karmann’s arthritis.

Allow me, then, to explain it for you.

Doga = gathering 20-30 mostly-oblivious dog stewards into a room, and then making them do things that further direct their attention away from their dogs, in the name of presence and dog-bonding. There is barking.

In other words, doga is a horrible idea.

Since I had no idea what to expect, I wore, well, yoga pants. I realized that it was DOGa, however I also felt reasonably assured that I was not going to look at Karmann, be all, “Yo, puppy, Trikonasana.” and watch in amazement as she executed a perfect Triangle Pose. Whatever the hell doga would be, I figured, would require some flexibility and dog manipulation on my part, and I therefore did not wear low-rise superskinnies with my knee high motorcycle boots.

Lesson 1: not everybody is logical.

I walked into a room including around five pup-moms in skinny jeans and boots, one of whom immediately said, because I am invisible and/or presumed deaf, “It’s dog yoga, I didn’t think *I* would be doing yoga. What’s with the people in yoga pants?” To which another superskinny warrior responded, “People wear those things EVERYWHERE. To work, even.”

Lesson 2: I am absolutely right in my assumption that all people are asshats until they prove otherwise. Yoga notwithstanding.

Prior to doga, I spent an hour and a half walking Karmie around, trying to blow off some steam and prepare her for the mindlfullness that would surely be required of a canine yogi. And it worked, more or less. Until all the other people started coming in with their dogs, barking and freaking the hell out and dressed like tacos and  batman princesses because there was a costume contest immediately preceding over at the tent area (which had six swag tents, two of which were booze samples–yay puppies!) In other words, it was pretty much like every other dog-specific novelty gathering that counts for the one time each year that people venture off their home turf with their dogs and without their brains.

Lesson 3: refer to lesson 2.

Finally, yoga starts and I am THRILLED because what, even, is doga?!?? We are told that we are going to learn to be mindful WITH our dogs, which seems weird, and proceed to do a basic breathing exercise while 25 or so dogs on leashes vibrate around the nuclei of our persons, trying to interact with someone, ANYONE. Human, dog, they don’t care, they do not know what is happening and all the people have their eyes closed, hyperventilating.

Lesson 4: Doga confuses actual dogs.

And then we start a circular walking meditation, for which some kindly people very thoughtfully put out water bowls. Which means that our aware, present, relaxing, centering circumambulation is punctuated by four dog pile ups, puppies lunging for water, and bowl-guarding snit fits. Breathe in to the count of four left foot strikes, hold it for two, breathe out for the PLEASE STOP LETTING YOUR DOG SNAP AT THAT AGING BEAGLE WHO WOULD JUST LIKE WATER.

Lesson 5: Doga is not relaxing. For anyone.

After the circumambulation-cum-water fights, we are told to pull out our treats to begin working on gaze with our dogs.

Treats?

I was not told to bring treats. In fact, I very specifically do not bring treats to group dog events because I don’t want to start a brawl by whipping out liver jerky in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated, poorly-minded strangedogs. We are treatless. Poor Karmann. This is really not working out for her at all.

The exercise we’re doing, however, is one that Karmie owns like the fuzzbutt little bawss she is: eye contact and following. She knows this as “watch,” so we rock it out sans treats, substituting pets and nose kisses for liver. After a couple minutes, she has come back to earth. Whew.

Which is when we are told to stand on our leashes, our feet hip width apart.

Ok. Um. Three problems:

1. When I take Karmann into densely populated urban areas, I use a 4 foot leash. That’s so I don’t have 3 feet of looping leash flopping against my leg while I leave a foot or so free to guide her through people/stupid kids/stupid parents/other dogs/old people.

2. “hip-width” is about two feet, give or take, and my dog is not a dachshund. Her neck is not at floor level when she is standing. So minus 2 feet to keep Karm comfey, I’m left with 2 feet of “ground leash” on which to spread my feet apart, which puts one foot in the loop, rather awkwardly. From the looks of it, several other pet parents were encountering a similar issue, because this instruction led to a lot of dogs with their heads pulled down to the floor while they fought to continue standing.

3. I am specifically uncomfortable in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated dogs whose heads are being forcibly pulled toward the ground while also not under any sort of manual control by their people. Because standing on your leash gives you pretty much none controls in that situation. One slip of your foot, or a dog that REALLY wants to meet his neighbor, like, NOW, and said dog is born free and flying out the door. Or into the face of someone else’s dog who does not wish to have a dog in their face.

I realize some may think I’m over-thinking this. Maybe I am. But taking care of Cal has made me much more sensitive to the stress levels of dogs, as well as the  bullshit people put their dogs through in the name of “fun.” This was not fun. I was not having fun, Karmann was not having fun, most of the other dogs in that room were not having fun, and all the not-fun we were having made it pretty clear to me that it was not worth the risk of something stupid happening. So I grabbed our bag and we split.

We had about a 3/4 mile walk to the car and, within maybe two minutes of leaving that room, Karmann relaxed, flopped her ears back, and happily sniffed her way back to the parking lot.

THAT was fun.

Lesson 7: My doggie is awesome (pre-existing knowledge.)

 

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2 responses

  1. Yes, I can see your story so clearly, and I’m so sorry for your experience! I’d like to just counter-story that not all doga sessions are such an unmitigated disaster. I went for a trial doga class too, about two years ago with my small kooikerhondje who was then about a year old. It’s the only doga class I’ve ever been to because the offer was never repeated. Up until then, my small 20 lb puppy had been very touch-averse. She shrank away from me whenever I reached out to pet her, she did not like me messing with her leash and collar near her, and she didn’t like approaching me. It broke my heart. And then, on a whim, I tried that doga class. Our class was a little chaotic too, but not as chaotic as yours was. Some of the dogs really struggled. But, for whatever reason, Kira and I were centered on each other. I could keep my focus on her, keep her safe and comfortable. And she was just receptive. Well, it was a turning point in our lives together. I can definitively point to that day as the day that my relationship with her started easing out, and trust became more mutual. She was not an easy puppy. I did have treats with me that day as she was and still is a very treat-focused dog. But I didn’t use a single one during that session. I’ve never regretted going.

    But, when all is said and done, I do think doga is best done at home, where the distractions are minimal, and the dog is better able to relax than in a class setting with a bunch of unknown dogs and people. Now if only somebody would produce a really good doga DVD, then I’d be really happy.

    I’m sorry your experience was so noga, but am happy that your Karmann is such a resilient dog!

    • In fairness, the fact that my doga session took place at a dog fest thing probably had a–let’s call it “dramatic”–effect on the energy of the class. I’m glad to hear you found it rewarding, and I’d definitely be game to try it again, in a more mindful environment. I think if people were *only* going to a Doga session, said session would be markedly different in mood than one in which people went because it was included in the registration and they were already there for the costume contest, anyway.

      Thanks for sharing the positive side of it! I have an anxious little guy (Cal) who I think could benefit from it, but he could never handle a class. So perhaps I’ll make a concerted effort to learn so my pups and I can do it in the relative peace and quiet of our own house.

      >

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